The Influence of First Language on Playing Brass Instruments

The Influence of First Language on Playing Brass Instruments

This is a guest article, written by PhD student Matthias Heyne from University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand. I find his thoughts very interesting, and would recommend that you answer his questionnaire and help him getting started with the project!

The Influence of First Language on Playing Brass Instruments

by Matthias Heyne – University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

First of all I would like to thank Anders Larson for offering to let me write a short article to appear on this website!

I am currently getting started on my PhD project within the Linguistics Department at the University of Canterbury. With my research, I’ll try to find out whether the sounds of one’s native language influence the playing of brass instruments. Drawing upon personal experience as a trombone player (and as many fellow brass players have assured me), there seem to be notable differences observable in the style of playing which seem to correspond to the players’ language backgrounds. Potential differences in playing styles may be due to differences in the consonant systems of languages as well as vowel systems.

My questionnaire serves as a first step to collect comparable data from players with different language backgrounds to help me identify relevant areas of influence. In the main part of the proposed research project, I will use ultrasound to record brass players’ tongue positioning in order to obtain empirically documented data on what players from diverse language groups may do differently which leads to perceivable differences in playing.

The questionnaire comprises a total of 25 questions and takes 15-20 minutes to complete. It is possible to stop answering the questionnaire and return to it later by clicking the “Save and continue later” button.

Link to the questionnaire in English:
(There is also a version in German at



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